I’ve often described myself as ‘the little Italian girl from da Bronx’ despite the fact that my father moved the family out of the Bronx when I was 8 and I really have no connection to the place except for –
The things I say and do. Okay some of those things are also Italian but the Bronx had a heavy concentration of Italian immigrants. The one famous Bronx characteristic I do NOT have is the legendary Bronx accent – for which I am grateful.
The Bronx accent is somewhat similar to a Brooklyn accent – but the Bronx accent is somewhat sharper sounding, a little tougher, ’cause the Bronx is a tough place. Yes, th is pronounced like a d – Dis for this, Dat for that. But 33rd Street becomes toity-toid Street.
The best is – the oi sound becomes an r-sound, as in olive earl or terlet bowl (that would be in English, olive oil and toilet bowl) And New Yorker’s of every borough are know for dropping the r from words altogether and/or replacing it with a d-sound or a w (car becomes caw) Of course there is the famous aw sound – cawfee for coffee. And yes, we drop g‘s at the end of words – going becomes goin‘. And we run words together, like ‘jeet?’ translates to “Did you eat?”
Also “Yo” – I always considered that to be just a New York thing but come to think of it I never heard it in Queens (where I lived after the age of 8). The funniest thing about “Yo” – my husband lived in Vermont when I married him, me being from NYC made me quite the exotic character. My step-children picked up some of my New York-isms which I never realized until I got a note from one of the kids teachers that she had tried to get the teacher’s attention by shouting out “YO”…The teacher didn’t quite know what that meant but she took offense. Me, I cracked up laughing. (Or as we say in NYC – laffin’.)
Then there is the slap-tap/swoop to the back of the head. I never really thought about it much, along with the fist tap to the shoulder but when I did it to someone at work they said “Whadda ya from da Bronx?” Why, yes, yes, I am!
But all this came to mind last week when I read an article about the phrase “expletive you and the horse you rode in on”. My father used to say that all the time, the expletive in his case was ‘screw’ which isn’t really the expletive most people use. But some sources back track it to the Bronx because some guy who wrote a book that used the phrase said he first heard it in the 1950’s in the Bronx. I don’t know, my father used it long before that.
Years ago I wrote a little piece about as you get older you revert to your essential self. It was in reference to my solitariness but started by noting that my grandmothers and mother all reverted back to Italian, their first language, as they aged. And here I am, reverting back to my Bronx-ness as I age – becoming more Bronx-y, becoming more New York-y and in some ways more Italian. It’s interesting stepping back and watching this.
I mentioned earlier that my father moved us from the Bronx to Queens when I was 8, and while I have never felt a conscious attachment to the Bronx I have ZERO attachment to Queens. My personal opinion is Queens is a boring nothing place with no personality at all. And in service to that, here is a little video about New York accents – pay attention to what they say about Queens –